Course to Examine Ethical Travel Storytelling
Travel is a communicative experience. When we leave our homes — whether we are dining in a new neighborhood or traveling across the globe — the way we communicate with local residents and the way we share our experiences through social media, podcasts and other storytelling methods, matters.
In Spring ’22, the new course “Travel and Transmedia Storytelling,” offered within the School of Communication Studies, will guide students in developing ethical, technological and intercultural competencies as travelers and travel storytellers.
Assistant Professors Téwodros Workneh, Ph.D., and Ikram Toumi, Ph.D., will teach the course, Mondays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. The course is open to all Kent State students, and no prerequisites are required.
“Storytelling is an act of power,” Workneh said. “As communicators, that power comes with responsibility. (We’re asking students to reflect on), ‘How do you talk about new cultural encounters and people you meet along the way? At the same time, how do you tell better stories?’”
In addition to discussions about ethical traveling and mindful intercultural encounters, students will engage in hands-on work, documenting, curating and disseminating travel experiences through mobile technology.
“They will engage in some sort of traveling activity and record it,” Toumi said. “They can do that in their own community (or beyond). They’ll produce some sort of content ... whether it’s photography, writing of a blog, a podcast.”
Students will also examine and critique travel books, television and online content that others have produced. Toumi mentioned Rick Steves’ Europe and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown as potential options. She also hopes to arrange guest lectures with travel vloggers and with students and alumni who have previously studied abroad.
Even though they will be examining travel-related media centering on other parts of the world, Workneh emphasized that he wants students to think about travel as something that doesn’t need to be “exotic.”
“We travel all the time,” he said. “Even if it’s a new restaurant that opened 15 minutes from us, (if) we’re traveling to Erie, Pennsylvania, to have family fun. ... Travel is not about how far you are going, but how keen you are to observe new ways of telling stories, new ways of interacting with people.”
And when we see ourselves as “travelers,” when we are exploring new communities near and far, we may notice small details that locals take for granted. That’s the type of mindset he wants his students to embrace.
“(As a local, you may be) oblivious to the things around you,” he said. “As an outsider, everything is news and news. You get to tell a story that may be mundane for the local population but an inspiration for others.” But beyond telling a story of travel encounters, the course equips students to critically engage with the essence of the stories they produce. “Ethical travel storytelling, more than anything else, is about communities and uplifting their voices,” Workneh added